2021 was the second time the Northumberland Miners’ Picnic had to be cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The Northumberland Miners’ Picnic is the oldest and largest gathering of its type in the UK. It was originally held to celebrate the mining industry in the county and give people who lived and worked in the coalfield communities the chance to come together.
When it became clear that the physical Picnic event would not be possible in 2021, Paul Smith was invited to curate and perform a special concert to celebrate and commemorate this important and historic annual community event. Paul curated a special playlist of original solo material alongside a selection of folk and modern songs with strong connections to the coal mining industry.
Paul also selected a series of photographs by Ashington social documentary photographer Mik Critchlow to feature in the performance. Selected images included the last shift worked at Woodhorn Colliery, images of past Northumberland Miners’ Picnics and social scenes from local coalmining communities. The images created deeper connection between the selected songs, the colliery heritage site location and local people.
The performance was filmed at Woodhorn Museum whilst museums were still closed under government guidance. Filming from the closed museum, which is itself a closed colliery site, was a powerful and poignant way to recognise and reflect on the challenges faced by our communities both historically and very recently.
Paul Smith’s performance provided a moment of reflection for our mining heritage, the challenges we’ve experienced together in this past year, and the unique and special ways people have remained connected through culture during the pandemic.
With special thanks to Paul Smith and Mik Critchlow, Prolifica Management, Ingram AV and Turps Film. Supported by Arts Council England and Northumberland County Council.